Election Commissioner Lavasa opposed five clean chits to Amit Shah, PM Modi

Ritika Chopra
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. (Photo: PTI)

Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa has differed with the majority view in five different complaints of violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, The Sunday Express has learnt. Of these, four pertain to the PM.

On Saturday, the Election Commission cleared yet another speech by Modi under the Model Code. This pertained to his rally in Patan, Gujarat, on April 21, when he claimed that he had warned Pakistan of dire consequences if it did not return Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman.

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Lavasa opposed the all-clear to Modi for his minority-majority speeches in Wardha on April 1 and Nanded on April 6, and the clean chit to his appeal to first-time voters by invoking the Balakot airstrikes, in Latur and Chitradurga on April 9. He also disagreed with his colleagues' view that Shah's speech in Nagpur on April 9, when he likened Wayanad, the second seat from where Congress president Rahul Gandhi is contesting, to Pakistan was not violative of the MCC.

The EC hasn't officially announced its disposal of the Chitradurga complaint.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora and Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra are the other members of the poll panel.

Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa.

All of the above decisions were taken by a 2-1 majority. Lavasa said he did not wish to comment when contacted by The Sunday Express.

"Dissent is a healthy sign of objective deliberations. My hope for the EC is a bit revived," former CEC S Y Quraishi told this newspaper.

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According to Section 10 of The Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991, all business of the EC "shall, as far as possible, be transacted unanimously". This provision also states that in case the "Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners differ in opinion on any matter, such matter shall be decided according to the opinion of the majority".

Clearing the PM on Saturday for the Patan speech, the EC said it had sought a detailed report from the Gujarat Chief Electoral Officer in the matter and examined the complaint "in detail in accordance with the extant advisories, provisions of the Model Code of Conduct" and found no violation. This decision was unanimous.

With Saturday's development, the poll panel has officially given a clean chit to Modi in six complaints till date (the Chitradurga case still awaits an official announcement). The remaining cases where he was let off the hook were about his remark in Varanasi on April 25, when he said that 40 terrorists had been killed in Pulwama in response to the terror attack that had killed 40 CRPF men there, and about his speech in Barmer in Rajasthan on April 21, when he had warned Pakistan, saying India's nuclear arsenal was not meant for Diwali.

Like in the Patan case, the final decisions regarding Varanasi and Barmer speeches were unanimous.

The EC has been directed by the Supreme Court to dispose of all complaints of MCC violation filed by the Congress against Modi and Shah by Monday. This direction was given in response to Congress MP Sushmita Dev's petition demanding urgent action by the EC on the complaints.